Baked Mac and Cheese

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This irresistible and easy baked mac and cheese recipe is what true comfort food is all about. Featuring a blend of cheddar and gruyere cheeses, this delicious dish is perfect for serving as a hearty main dish or a satisfying side.

Suitable for vegetarian diets.

top down view of the finished baked mac and cheese recipe

Indulge in the perfect balance of creamy and gooey textures, accompanied by a rich and flavorful combination of two classic kinds of cheese with this easy baked mac and cheese recipe.

Whether you’re seeking a cozy family dinner or a crowd-pleasing dish for a gathering, this casserole recipe will leave everyone asking for seconds. Get your taste buds ready for a symphony of flavors that will have you reaching for that fork in no time!

This delectable baked mac and cheese is an effortless meal that can be prepared ahead of time. Not only does this dish deliver a symphony of flavors, but it also offers the convenience you crave. Just like my Stove Top Mac and Cheese, my creamy dreamy White Cheddar Mac and Cheese and this family weeknight classic Baked Tortellini Casserole recipes.

And for a festive table don’t forget to check out these easy Easy Yeast Rolls too or this Green Bean Casserole Recipe.

the completed baked mac and cheese with a serving spoon inside

Yeap, with simple ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, you’ll have this mac and cheese masterpiece ready in minutes.

Plus, it’s a recipe that’s perfect for meal prepping. Just assemble it ahead of schedule, pop it in the oven when you’re ready, and voila! A piping hot, golden-brown mac and cheese that will leave your guests amazed. 

Why Make This Recipe

  • Versatile and Customizable – While this recipe features cheddar and gruyere cheeses, feel free to get creative and add your own personal touch. Customize it by incorporating additional ingredients like bacon, caramelized onions, or even a sprinkle of herbs for added flair.
  • Time-Saving Meal Prep – This recipe can be assembled in advance, allowing you to conveniently prepare it ahead of time. Pop it in the oven for a cheesy delight when you’re ready to serve.
  • Effortless Preparation – With simple ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, even beginner cooks can whip up this delicious dish with ease.
  • Ps check out my Ravioli Bake for a simple and similar recipe.
top down view of a bowl filled with baked mac and cheese

Ingredient Notes

  • Pasta – This recipe calls for elbow macaroni, a classic choice for mac and cheese due to its small, tube-like shape that holds the cheese sauce well. You can substitute it with other short pasta shapes like macaroni, cavatappi, or penne if desired. You can also use gluten free pasta.
  • Butter – Butter adds richness and flavor to the cheese sauce. If you prefer, you can use margarine or a plant-based butter substitute as a dairy-free option.
  • Flour – Flour is used to create a roux, which thickens the cheese sauce. All-purpose flour works well in this recipe, but if you need a gluten-free alternative, you can use a gluten-free flour blend or cornstarch (use half the amount of cornstarch as a substitute).
  • Milk – Milk contributes to the creamy consistency of the sauce. You can use any type of milk you prefer, such as whole milk, 2% milk, or even non-dairy milk like almond or soy milk for a lactose-free version.
  • Heavy Cream – Cream adds richness and a luxurious texture to the sauce. If you prefer a lighter version, you can substitute it with half-and-half or a combination of milk and melted butter. Cashew cream or coconut cream would be acceptable vegan substitutes. 
  • Cheese – Sharp cheddar cheese provides a sharp and tangy flavor, while gruyere cheese adds a nutty and creamy flavor to the dish. Feel free to experiment with different types of cheddar, such as sharp, mild, or aged. If you want to explore other cheeses, you can substitute some of the cheddar with Monterey Jack, Colby, or Gouda for a unique twist. Substitute gruyere with Swiss cheese or Emmental cheese, which have similar characteristics.
  • Paprika – Paprika adds a hint of smokiness and color. Feel free to use sweet or smoked paprika, depending on your preference. You can also omit it if you don’t have it on hand.
  • Salt and Pepper – These common seasonings are used to enhance the flavors of the dish. Adjust the amounts to suit your taste preferences.
some of the ingredients for making baked mac and cheese

Ready to learn how to make what I think is one of the very best homemade mac and cheese recipes? Then gather up those ingredients, and I will show you…

Handy Tip: Use Good Kitchen Tools!

For the best tools to help make your recipe even easier and more successful, check out my collection of the Best Kitchen Tools on Amazon.

How To Make Baked Mac and Cheese

Get the complete ingredients list and instructions from the recipe card below.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 174 degrees C, and bring a saucepan to boil and cook pasta according to the package directions.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour and stir until incorporated. Cook for 2 minutes to help eliminate the raw flour taste. 
  3. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is creamy and thick.
  4. Add in the heavy cream, paprika, cheddar cheese, and gruyere (reserving some of each cheese for the topping). Stir until the cheese is melted, then turn off the heat.
  5. Drain the water from the pasta and transfer the cooked pasta to the mac and cheese sauce mixture and stir well to combine.
  6. Transfer the cheesy pasta to a prepared baking casserole dish and top with the remaining shredded cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden.
image collage showing the steps for making this baked mac and cheese recipe

Expert Tips 

  • Cook the pasta al dente to prevent it from becoming overly soft and mushy when baked in the cheese sauce.
  • Mixing different types of cheeses adds depth and complexity to the dish. Cheddar and gruyere are a classic combination but feel free to experiment with other cheeses like Monterey Jack, fontina, or Parmesan to create your own unique flavor profile.
  • Pre-shredded cheese often contains additives to prevent clumping, which can affect the texture of the sauce. For the creamiest results, grate the cheese yourself from a block or wheel.
  • When preparing the roux (butter and flour mixture), cook it over medium heat until it turns into a smooth paste. This step is crucial for achieving a silky, lump-free cheese sauce.
  • Pour the milk into the roux gradually, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. This helps ensure a smooth and creamy sauce.
  • Once the cheese has melted into the sauce, promptly remove it from the heat. Overcooking the sauce can cause it to become grainy or separate.
  • Taste the sauce before adding the pasta and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Add salt, pepper, and other seasonings to enhance the overall flavor.
  • When combining the cooked pasta and cheese sauce, gently fold to prevent the pasta from breaking apart. This helps maintain the pasta’s texture and structure.
  • Sprinkle reserved cheese on top of the mac and cheese before baking to create a golden, cheesy crust. Consider topping it with breadcrumbs, crushed crackers, or even bacon bits for added crunch and flavor.
  • After baking, give the mac and cheese a few minutes to rest. This allows the sauce to thicken slightly and makes it easier to serve without it being too runny.
  • Here are some of my favorite things to use to make this delicious dish.
a serving spoon removing some of the completed baked mac and cheese from the baking dish

Delicious Variations

  • Add Vegetables –  Boost the nutritional value by incorporating vegetables into your mac and cheese. Add steamed broccoli, sautéed spinach, roasted cherry tomatoes, or caramelized onions for added flavor and texture.
  • Experiment with Different Cheeses – While cheddar and gruyere are classic choices, swapping the cheese for your favorites can make this a personalized, delicious recipe. Some tasty options include parmesan cheese, pepper jack cheese, Colby jack, mozzarella cheese, smoked cheddar, and smoked gouda.
  • Incorporate Meats – Adding cooked and diced bacon, shredded rotisserie chicken, or sliced smoked sausage to your mac and cheese. These additions provide additional savory elements and protein.
  • Make it Spicy – Add a kick of flavor by including spices or herbs. Try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes for a spicy twist. Add diced jalapeños, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, or a drizzle of hot sauce to your mac and cheese.
  • Add Herbs and Seasonings – Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or parsley can also add a refreshing herbal note. You can also add seasoning like onion powder or garlic powder.
  • Use Different Pasta Shapes – While elbow macaroni is traditional, feel free to experiment with different pasta shapes. Shells, penne, or cavatappi can hold the cheese sauce beautifully, creating delightful pockets of cheesiness in each bite.
  • Make it Gluten-free – If you follow a gluten-free diet, substitute regular pasta with gluten-free options such as rice-based or corn-based pasta. Use a gluten-free flour blend or cornstarch in the sauce to thicken it.
  • Top it Off – Top the mac and cheese with panko bread crumbs, crushed Ritz crackers, grated Parmesan cheese, or a sprinkle of fresh herbs.
  • Make it Gourmet – Elevate your mac and cheese by adding luxurious ingredients such as truffle oil, lobster meat, or sautéed mushrooms for an indulgent experience.
a white bowl filled with one portion of baked mac and cheese

Prep And Storage

  • Prep Ahead – Prepare in advance and refrigerate until ready to bake. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. 
  • Store – Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. These are great for storing and meal prep.
  • Freeze – Wrap tightly before baking and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake until golden brown and the cheese is melted. 
the finished baked mac and cheese ready to be served

FAQs

Can I Prepare Baked Mac and Cheese in Advance?

Absolutely! Baked mac and cheese can be assembled and refrigerated before you’re ready to bake it. Cover it tightly with foil or plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake, remove the covering and follow the recipe’s instructions for baking.

Why Is The Cheese Sauce Grainy?

Grainy cheese sauce can result from overcooking or overheating the sauce. To prevent this, cook the sauce over low to medium heat and avoid boiling it.

Stir constantly and remove it from the heat as soon as the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.

How Do I Reheat Leftover Baked Mac and Cheese?

To reheat leftover mac and cheese, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 174 degrees C. Place the mac and cheese in an oven-safe dish, add a couple of tables spoons of milk or water, cover it with foil, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until heated through.

Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions in the microwave until warmed to your liking.

top down view of the finished baked mac and cheese recipe

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close up view of the completed baked mac and cheese in the casserole dish

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top down view of the finished baked mac and cheese recipe
Print Recipe
3 from 1 vote

Baked Mac and Cheese

This baked mac and cheese recipe is classic comfort food at its best!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Main, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Western
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 6
Calories: 1021kcal
Author: Bintu Hardy

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (453g) elbow macaroni
  • cup (76g) butter
  • ½ cup (63g) flour
  • 2 ½ cups (591ml) milk
  • 1 cup (236ml) heavy cream
  • 2 ¾ cups (300g) cheddar cheese reserve ¼ cup for topping
  • 2 ¼ cups (225g) gruyere reserve ¼ cup for topping
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 174 degrees C and cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions.
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour and stir until incorporated. Cook for 2 minutes to help eliminate the raw flower taste.
  • Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is creamy and thick.
  • Add in the heavy cream, paprika, cheddar cheese and gruyere (reserving some of each cheese for the topping). Stir until the cheese is melted, then turn off the heat.
  • Drain the water from the pasta and transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Transfer the cheesy pasta to a baking pan and top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until golden and bubbly on top.
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Video

Notes

  • Cook the pasta al dente to prevent it from becoming overly soft and mushy when baked in the cheese sauce.
  • Mixing different types of cheeses adds depth and complexity to the dish. Cheddar and gruyere are a classic combination, but feel free to experiment with other cheeses like Monterey Jack, fontina, or Parmesan to create your own unique flavor profile.
  • Pre-shredded cheese often contains additives to prevent clumping, which can affect the texture of the sauce. For the creamiest results, grate the cheese yourself from a block or wheel.
  • When preparing the roux (butter and flour mixture), cook it over medium heat until it turns into a smooth paste. This step is crucial for achieving a silky, lump-free cheese sauce.
  • Pour the milk into the roux gradually, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. This helps ensure a smooth and creamy sauce.
  • Once the cheese has melted into the sauce, promptly remove it from the heat. Overcooking the sauce can cause it to become grainy or separate.
  • Taste the sauce before adding the pasta and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Add salt, pepper, and other seasonings to enhance the overall flavor.
  • When combining the cooked pasta and cheese sauce, gently fold to prevent the pasta from breaking apart. This helps maintain the pasta’s texture and structure.
  • Sprinkle reserved cheese on top of the mac and cheese before baking to create a golden, cheesy crust. Consider topping it with breadcrumbs, crushed crackers, or even bacon bits for added crunch and flavor.
  • After baking, give the mac and cheese a few minutes to rest. This allows the sauce to thicken slightly and makes it easier to serve without it being too runny.
  • Storage – keep leftovers in an airtight container inside the fridge for 5 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 1021kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 63g | Saturated Fat: 37g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 190mg | Sodium: 828mg | Potassium: 461mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2216IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 1039mg | Iron: 2mg

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